A bit of a China crisis

Before I start - I know it’s been a while since my last blog, so I apologise for that. It has been a really busy few months and it has taken until now to put a couple of weeks together to step back and have some downtime.

Since winning the Grand Finals, I pulled out of China and took 10 days with the family to chill out, relax and give myself the best possible chance of going into the World Championships this month firing on all cylinders.

The last time I wrote for Living Snooker I was preparing for the UK Championship at the end of November. Now I’ve written it, that really does feel like a long time ago! My form had been up and down a bit going into the UK but I had a good run to the quarter-finals there.

I felt good and beat Shaun Murphy 6-5, which I was really chuffed with as my record against Shaun was awful – in fact, I hadn't beaten him in a ranking tournament up until then, so it was a big result for me and my confidence. It was the best I've ever done in the UK Championship. I played some nice stuff and should really have beaten Mark Selby but he edged a scrappy match.

If I’ve been guilty of one thing this season it’s losing tight games. I’ve let a couple slip and it’s frustrating. I’ve been working on one or two things to try to combat that, as I've always prided myself on battling and scrapping away in tight matches.

Since the UK, my form has been pretty consistent. I got to the semi-final of the Welsh Open but lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2.

If I’m honest, it was never a 6-2 game. I got good starts in a lot of the frames but just stumbled or ran out of position when on a break and then Ronnie does what Ronnie does and made me pay. Only he could have dished up the balls the way he did that day to beat me so convincingly. He really was on top of his game. It’s not an excuse but he made me pay when some others might not have.

Then I went to Haikou, in China, and Mark Joyce beat me early on. It’s the best I’ve seen him play and he deserved it but I wasn’t right. I've got a pretty poor record in China overall and I’m not sure why. The game is massive over there, you can see that from the amount of talented boys coming through, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t click for me.

I mentioned earlier I’ve been working on a few things about my game and something I’ve been talking to Terry Griffiths about is maybe picking and choosing the times I go to China next season. I just find it really tough. The travelling is one thing but when you're sometimes stuck in the middle of nowhere, with not many options to eat or anything to do, it can be hard.

It's the same for the all players, I know that, but for some reason it has affected me this season. I don't know if it’s because my family is back in England and I get a bit homesick, but I need to find ways of handling it better. Playing in China is a big bit of the tour and will probably only get bigger. It’s about being able to prepare properly for each event I enter.

Ronnie is a bit of a one-off, I know, but he’s got the right idea and you see it clearly with him. He doesn’t play every tournament in the calendar and when he does he feels like he’s fresh, ready to compete and give it his best. I’m not saying I’ll definitely do this or that, but I will certainly be looking at cutting down the events I enter. You have to do what is right for you and what will give you the best chance in tournaments.

Anyway, a couple of weeks after Haikou I was in Preston for the PCT Grand Finals and it couldn’t have been any more different to China. Like a ropey TV drama, I’ll leave it there for the time being as I’m getting a touch of writer’s cramp! I'll have a little break and be back with a blog about Preston and looking ahead to the Worlds. I hope you’ve enjoyed this one and, don’t worry, the next one will be with you in days, rather than months!

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